The New Reform Package - TOC
1. Is There No Alternative?
2. A Swift Kick in the Ballots
3. Does Size Matter?
4. Bringing It Together: Why All This Matters
The last three posts have all been about plans for electoral reform: voting systems, Constitutional processes, electoral boundaries. To many, it's dry stuff. It's dull, it's pointless. It's a distraction from the real issues.
Because these things are the foundations of politics, and if you get these details wrong, you get the structures wrong, and if you get the structures wrong, you get the policies wrong.
When I argued my case for independence, I argued that while where we are governed shouldn't be the be-all-and-end-all of politics, it has a direct impact on how we are governed. Think of all the policy areas where Scotland has gone a different way since devolution, or the areas where there would be a differnece if Holyrood had more or ll possible powers. While the many new public spending commitments might now be under threat, try telling a student who no longer has to pay tuition fees, or an OAP receiving free personal care, or the fishing fleet exasperated at the UK Government performance in the last set of CFP negotiations, or the families of troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, that the constitution is irrelevant. It isn't: the present constitutional state that has contributed to the position they are in. Where things are done affects what things are done.
The same is true of the voting system. had PR been in place, the final outcome of, well, pretty much every Parliamentary election would have been different: there would have been fewer - if any majorities in the Commons and that would have had a profound effect on the Governments formed and what they could have done. Blair at the head of a Labour-LibDem Coalition would be remembered differently to the one in our history books. Imagine a Tory-led Government in the 1980s with the worst excesses of Thatcherism curbed, or perhaps a 1980s run by a Coalition of Labour and the Alliance. Even the end of this inconclusive election would have been different: a mathematically viable Labour-LibDem Coalition would have been possible, and the LibDems would have had greater bargaining power with more seats. Even if the votes cast were the same - which we know wouldn't be the case as voting behaviour would be altered: no need for tactical voting, more and more viable options to choose from - Parliament would be different, so the Government would be different, so Government policy would be different and that would affect everyone.
And even with FPTP, the boundaries matter. We know this as we know that Labour notional majority, based on the 2005 result applied to the new boundaries, was smaller than their actual majority on based the constituencies in place. nd we see it at Holyrood: the proposed boundary changes, if applied in 2007, would have cost the SNP one seat and Labour two, with the LibDems gaining one and the Tories two. Now with the outcome so finely balanced, that would have changed the direction of the Parliament, particularly in 2009, when the Budget that was rejected on the Presiding Officer's casting vote would have been passed by a majority of two votes, so the Scottish Government's spending priorities would have been different and that would again have affected all sorts of policy.
And that's what I'm trying to say: the Constitution, the voting system, the boundaries, they all affect who represents and governs us, so all affect what our Government does. And that affects nearly all of us.
This wonkery, this geekery, this process story that only excites the political village? It's at the heart of everything. It all matters.
01 August 2010
The New Reform Package - TOC